RECORD: Darwin, C. R. et al. 1877. [Memorial to Earl Carnarvon on the proposed South African Confederation by the Committee of the Aborigines Protection Society]. The Times (23 July): 10.
REVISION HISTORY: OCRed, corrected and edited by John van Wyhe 2.2007. RN2
NOTE: The preceding article on the Transvaal has also been included to provide some context for the memorial signed by Darwin.
The following is the appeal of Dutch citizens to public opinion in Great Britain on behalf of the Transvaal, to which we have already alluded:—
"Allied to England during a century (1678-1780), for the maintenance of the religious liberty and political equilibrium on the Continent, Holland remembers with pride the glorious epoch of that community of interests and entente cordiale. She recalls, not without some sadness, the sacrifices by which the Stadtholder of the Republic became the great liberator of England, and how the immortal William III laid the foundations of the British power based on the principles of the Constitutional Monarchy. Holland has not forgotten that the most illustrious statesmen and warriors, Marlborough, Heinsius, Walpole, Slingelandt, whether in pursuing war, or in diplomatic action for the maintenance of the general peace, by their cordial union, obtained signal and durable successes. Before all, and in the front line, Holland deems it an honour to have, in concert with Great Britain, taken in hand and sustained with constancy and by the most noble efforts the sacred cause of the feeble and oppressed by land and sea in Europe. Never did suffering humanity invoke in vain the protection of the inseparable Powers of the Sea. In France, in Italy, in Germany, and in Hungary, as in the question of the East, their indissoluble and close alliance shone again and again with brilliant lustre, and caused their name to be blessed by minorities in arms covered with their ægis. Those times are far from ours, it is true; and Holland no longer counts, as did the United Provinces of the Netherlands, in the rank of the preponderant States of our age. Great Britain alone has succeeded to the heritage of the beneficent Protectorate, for which our ancestors, too, once lavished their blood and their treasure. In our days England alone has remained in the lists, and her powerful and generous intervention has, in the words of Lord Brougham, earned for the British Parliament the magnificent eulogy of being recognized and honoured as the supreme tribunal, to which all the oppressed nations of the universe had so often recourse without ever imploring in vain its justice. Yet, in this very refuge and sanctuary, in spite of the solemn protests of President Burgers and the Executive Council of the South African Republic against the annexation and incorporation of the territory proclaimed by Sir T. Shepstone—Mr. Lowther, a Minister of the Crown, has declared that all was going for the best in the Transvaal, and that these documents were not worthy of consideration. No other official international ar diplomatic document had been received at the Foreign or Colonial Offices. If we may not doubt the reiterated and public assertion of Mr. Lowther, is not this passive and silent attitude of the Cabinets unworthy and shameful? Is a free and independent State like the Transvaal to cease to exist under the pretext of financial distress, or a money crisis, such as the great European Powers, including England herself, have repeatedly passed over. Or is it because the Government of the Republic is not exempt from errors and miscalculations? Who is the Chief or the Ministry of ancient or modern times who has ever claimed to have a patent of political or administrative infallibility? Is it a trifling thing to erase a State from the list of free and sovereign peoples? We should ask nothing better than to be able to be silent and dissemble the truth. But what can be replied to the following words of a truthful English author, revolted by the spectacle under his eyes? 'What does England gain by the robbery of the diamond fields? Nothing, I venture to reply' (such are the words of Captain Lindley) 'but dishonour, obloquy, and hatred, loss of prestige and respect in one of those colonial centres where a course of wise, just, and honourable conduct would insure an early confederation of States, to the future strength, glory, and perpetuity; of the British Empire. The policy of wronging the two independent South African States—the Orange Free State and the Transvaal—alienates thousands of white colonists and inspires thousands more with detestation for such mean, incapable statecraft.'
"Mr. Lindley, it will be seen, is not sparing in his terms, and yet it is four years since he wrote, long before the acts of the Proconsul, Sir T. Shepstone, who, after being received at Pretoria in the inviolable character of a diplomatist, has installed himself by undisguised force and imposed his domination by bayonets. Is this endurable? Has the auri sacra fames, and the saying ce qui est bonsevant à pendre est bon à qarder, passed into the directing principle of the policy of Cabinets, notably of the English Government, although it has never ceased to raise loud cries at the continual and systematic invasions of Russia. 'If political brigandage perpetuates itself,' remarks M. de Vergennes after the partition of Poland, 'peace will soon be nothing else but a way open to infidelity and treason. If immemorial possession, if solemn treaties which have fixed boundaries can no longer restrain ambition, how can surprise and invasion be guaranteed against?' The annexation of the Transvaal, secretly brought about, by covetousness on one hand, by jealousy of the projected railway on the other, is at least as detestable as the incorporations, which we have seen in Europe since that ill-omened annexation of Savoy and Nice, what has been accomplished in the Transvaal by dark and subterranean approaches and manoeuvres cannot he masked and coloured under the title of the right of conquest and the consequences of war. He who wishes to seize upon his neighbour's property is never in want of pretexts, though they may be futile. Whether the South African Republic was well or ill administered, the Government of the Cape had nothing to do with it. England, by the voice of the Duke of Newcastle, had formally recognized in 1853 and 1854 the right of the Boers of the Transvaal, as that of those of the Orange Free State, to govern themselves in their own guise, well or ill, as they might agree, renouncing in full and express terms all intervention in the domestic affairs of the two Republics, to 'guarantee in the fullest manner on the part of the British Government to the emigrant farmers beyond the Vaal the right to manage their own affairs and to govern themselves without any interference on the part of Her Majesty the Queen's Government, and that no encroachment shall be made by the said Government on any territory beyond, to the north of the Vaal river, it being understood that this system of non-interference is binding upon both parties.' Badly governed as the Transvaal may have been in the eyes of Lord Carnarvon, it was better at least than the abominable cut-throat throne of Dahomey which was spared by the British force. Whatever the value of these considerations, and especially of the authority of the Treaties and Conventions subsisting between England and the South African Republic, in presence of the grave complications to which Europe is exposed at this moment, the warning which Lord Palmerston gave in Parliament upon the Cracovian question merits especial attention and religious observation. 'If the great States,' said he, 'are as wise as I think they are if they know how to prepare for the future and consult their own interests, they will find that the surest way to preserve their possessions is never to violate their treaties with the small States.' Proud of its Dutch origin, and in peaceable possession for 20 years of the Government which it had established in virtue of its independence solemnly recognized by Great Britain, the Transvaal Republic seemed rather in case of need entitled to count upon the military aid of the Cape against the Caffres, far from nourishing the suspicion that to arrive at private ends perfidy and calculation would avail itself of this race as an instrument of division to destroy a State, which had taken rank among sovereign Powers, and occupies in the 'Almanach de Gotha' the place between Switzerland and that Turkey of which the Cabinet of St. James's is the firmest support. The incorporation of this Republic is a menace and an offence for the secondary States of the European Continent, which hardly a year ago received President Burgers with the highest distinction and concluded with the Republic which he represented perpetual treaties of amity and commerce. Let us conclude by recalling the prophetic warning which the British Parliament applauded in our time, and which has since been verified by the misfortunes of Austria. 'It will not escape the candour of the Northern Courts' such was the protest of England against the annexation of Cracovia, 'that if the Treaties of Vienna do not hold good upon the Vistula, they are no better upon the Rhine or the Po.''
The following memorial with reference to the proposed South African Confederation has been forwarded to the Earl of Carnarvon by the Committee of the Aborigines Protection Society:— "To the Right Hon. the Earl of Carnarvon,1 Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies.
"We beg respectfully to address your Lordship on the subject of the proposed establishment in South Africa of a confederation of Colonies and States.
"We observe, with great regret, that your Lordship, in a despatch addressed to his Excellency Sir Henry Barkly2 on December 14, expresses an opinion against any direct representation of natives in the Legislative Assembly of the Union.
"We have no desire to see masses of uncivilized men invested with political rights which they would be wholly unable to exercise in either a responsible or an intelligent manner; but we venture to submit, on the ground alike of justice and of policy, that native Africans who have acquired both education and property should not be excluded from the possession of the elective franchise.
"We understand that in this particular no distinction of race is recognized in the Australian Colonies; while in the Cape colony itself, as well as in New Zealand and in the Dominion of Canada, equal civil and political privileges have long been placed—with the best results—within reach of such individual members of the aboriginal race as are able to comply with the requirements of the law.
"We think it is of the utmost importance that when a new Constitution is in course of being framed for a country in the position of South Africa, the organic law of the State should embody the principle of an equality of rights, without regard to colour or race, leaving the principle itself to be applied only to those natives who have qualified themselves for the satisfactory performance of the duties of citizenship.
"We, therefore, earnestly hope that your Lordship will take steps to insure to the civilised portion of the coloured population of the British Dependencies in South Africa civil and political privileges, similar to those which it may be intended to confer upon persons of European descent.
"We feel that such a policy would entirely accord with the spirit which has hitherto characterized your Lordship's administration of native affairs.
"We have the honour to be your Lordship's obedient servants,
"Ebury; Charles Darwin; H. P. Liddon D.D., Canon of St. Paul's; Edward Fry, Judge of the High Court; Alfred Spencer Churchill; Samuel Gurney, President of the Aborigines' Protection Society; O. J. Wingfield, K.C.S.I.; T. Fowell Buxton; Robert Moffat, D.D.; George Young; C. J. Abraham (Bishop); Charles W. Dilke, M.P.; Mark J. Stewart, M.P.; H. M. Havelock, M.P.; Evelyn Ashley. MP.; Henry Fawcett, M.P.; J. Farley Leigh, Q.C„ MP.; J. Chamberlain, M.P.; George Anderson, M.P.; Thomas Bazley, MP.; Richard Smyth, M.P.; W. M'Arthur, Alderman, M.P.; Leonard H. Courtney, M.P.; Arthur Kinnaird, M.P.; John Simon, M.P. (Serjeant-at-Law); Peter Rylands, M.P., P. A. Taylor, M.P., D. M'Laren, M.P.; Walter H. James, M.P., S. Morley, M.P., A. J. Mundella, M.P., A, M'Arthur, M.P., Edward Jenkins, M.P.., T. Rowley Hill, M.P., C. H. Hopwood, Q.C., M.P., E A. Leatham, M.P., E. T. Gourley, Lieutenant-Colonel, M.P.; G. Osborne Morgan, Q.C., M.P., Ernest Noel, M.P., A. H .Brown, M.P., F. Pennington, M.P., T. B. Potter, M.P., Henry Richard, M.P., John Corbett, M.P., J. W. Pease, M.P., B. Whitworth, M.P., S. D. Waddy, Q.C., M.P., John Whitwell, M.P., E. J. Reed, M.P., R. Alexander, General; P. Benson Maxwell, James Anderson, R. N. Fowler, Edward Pease, Darlington; Joseph Cooper, Walthamstow; Edward Wilson, Hayes; James Heywood, F.R.S., J. Westlake, Q.C., LL.D., A. K. Isbister, LL.D., Froome Talfourd, Wandsworth; P. W. Bunting, Lincoln's-inn : E. Lyulph Stanley, F. W. Chesson, Sheldon Amos, M.A., J. B. Braithwaite, Lincoln's-inn; Edmund Sturge, William Shaen, Robert Shaw, Major-General; H. Fell Pease, J.P., Darlington; Edward Backhouse, Sunderland; James Peek, Torquay; Richard Smith, Lincoln's-inn; G.L. Neighbour, 127, High Holborn; W.A. Hunter, Temple; F. S. Turner, Wimbledon; Stafford Allen, Arthur Arnold, A. Buzacott, James Davis, D.D.; Thomas Harvey, Leeds; George Sturge, Sydenham; Joseph Huntley, Reading; G. S. Gibson, Saffron Walden; Francis E. Fox, Plymouth; George Palmer, Reading; Joseph Mullens, D.D., John E. Erskine, Admiral; T. F. Buxton, T. Hughes, Q.C.
"17, King William-street, Strand, July 20, 1877."
1 Henry Howard Molyneux Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890), Conservative secretary of state for the colonies.
2 Henry Barkly (1815-1898), governor of the Cape colony and British high commissioner in South Africa.
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Citation: John van Wyhe, editor. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (http://darwin-online.org.uk/)
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